Over the weekend one of my friends posted on facebook:
I am curious: Why are people surprised, amazed, and/or shocked when a black man and/or a woman is a Republican? I vote every year but I've never voted Republican.
I had to really think about his question and posted this response:
....I think that as a people we have become so disenchanted with the Republican agenda that we cannot accept "one of our own" being Republican. I can understand that but the other side of the equation is that we risk blindly following the Democrats. I'm sure that there are good Republicans just as much as I'm sure there are bad Democrats. We as a people need to challenge everything, question everything, and validate everything.
The New York Times published an article on Monday "Congressman Is Chosen to Succeed DeMint as South Carolina Senator" In their opening paragraph they reported:
Representative Tim Scott of South Carolina, who arrived in Congress two years ago on the wave of the Tea Party movement, was appointed on Monday to succeed Jim DeMint in the United States Senate, an elevation that makes him the first black senator from the South since the late 19th century.....
In a New York Times Op Ed the writer comments on this appointment:
......But this “first black” rhetoric tends to interpret African-American political successes — including that of President Obama — as part of a morality play that dramatizes “how far we have come.” It obscures the fact that modern black Republicans have been more tokens than signs of progress......
The article and the associated Op Ed appears to confirm the point that my friend made on facebook. If an African-American is a Republican he or she is considered a sellout, an Uncle Tom (or Thomasine). If they're appointed or selected for a position within the party then they're marked as the "token".
Before going any further, let's look at some facts. Tim Scott, Republican, is currently the only African-American senator. In a November 2012 report the Congressional Research Service provides the following insights:
"There are 43 African American Members serving in the 112th Congress, all in the House of Representatives. There have been 133 African American Members of Congress: 127 have been elected to the House; 5 have been elected to the Senate; and 1 has been appointed to the Senate. There have been 104 Democrats, 101 in the House and 3 in the Senate; and 29 Republicans, 26 in the House and 3 in the Senate."
The point here is that there is minimal African-American representation in Congress period. To call Tim Scott a token and not address the point that there are no Democrat black senators only serves to skew the discussion.
We are a society of individuals with varying opinions. We cannot expect every African-American to be on the same page, especially if we have to decide who's page we need to be on. I applaud the appointment of Tim Scott. I am happy when any African-American achieves a level of success.
That being said, I do not support Tim Scott. I am fundamentally opposed to his political positions at almost every level. Considering he was once a member of ALEC, there's no way that I can be philosophically aligned with his conservative agenda.
Ernest R. Heyward is the Founder and President of the Marketplace for Social Awareness and Social Responsibility Inc.